The past few days we visited our friends Ellen and Jean-Pierre at their home in the town of Séné, which is just outside of Vannes, one of the major cities in Brittany. We first met Ellen and Jean-Pierre at the American Church in Paris on Easter Sunday in 2019. We were thrilled to accept their invitation to come to Brittany as their guests.
Ellen and Jean-Pierre did a fabulous job introducing Priscilla and me to Brittany. Neither of us had been there before. To cut to the punchline, Brittany is both beautiful and fascinating. As a native Breton, Jean-Pierre has a deep knowledge of the history and willingly shared this with us, while Ellen is the tour organizer extraordinaire and has enthusiasm to spare.
The first place Ellen and Jean-Pierre took us was to the neolithic stone formations of Carnac, which date from around 4000 BCE. The photo above shows only a small portion of the formations. Nobody quite knows the reason for their existence, although they do have their theories. The most recent theory is that they served as some type of boundary or separation between one space and the next, perhaps in a metaphysical sense. It is amazing to think that people back then had the wherewithal to move such mammoth stones from the ocean all the way up to the Carnac area and then to get them stood up. Whatever their reasons, they certainly must have been important to them to go to such effort.
Later that day we visited the Port of Saint-Gouston, the place where Benjamin Franklin landed in 1776 on his mission to seek French aid in the Revolutionary War. There are signs of this significant historical importance all over the port area. As you'll note in the photos below, it was a rainy day. We were dressed for it though.
The next day we walked to the dock at Port Anna and caught the ferry boat to Île d'Arz. Of course I had to take a photo of the buoy in honor of our daughter Anna. By the way, Jean-Pierre informed me that if you pronounce the "z" in Île d'Arz they'll know you're not from Brittany. I remarked that all I had to do was open my mouth and they'd know I wasn't from around these parts. Prior to pushing off we were fortunate to see a traditional sailboat of Brittany called a sinagot. As we left port we passed the well known rose-colored house. Jean-Pierre told us that sailors used to get their bearings to port from this brightly colored house. I suspect with modern GPS systems, it's usefulness as a navigational aid has long since passed, but some things just shouldn't change I guess.
After our excursion to the Île d'Arz, we drove into the city center of Vannes where we toured the old town area. Vannes is one of the few walled cities that retains a large portion of the ancient wall that surrounded the city. The symbol for the city of Vannes is the ermine, which can be seen on the yard of the château in the photo on the far right below.
Our last day in Brittany with Ellen and Jean-Pierre was spent at the amazing Château de Suscinio. This castle dates to the Middle Ages and was used as one of the residences of the Dukes of Brittany (ducs de Bretagne). Eventually it became more of a hunting lodge. The exhibits and use of multi-media at the Château de Suscinio are absolutely top notch. Priscilla and I agreed that this is one of the best historical museums we've ever visited.
Finally, before returning to the station for our train back to Paris, we stopped at the coast to walk the beach a bit. It was lovely to see the Atlantic up close and smell the salty sea air. When I look back on all we did in just a few days I'm amazed. It's no wonder we are taking a rest day today. I hope Ellen and Jean-Pierre did the same. We had so much fun getting to know them better and look forward to the next time we can get together.